Dan Feldman

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Wizards confident in how John Wall will develop during super-max extension

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The NBA’s new designated-veteran-player rule hasn’t exactly worked as intended.

DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Kyrie Irving have all been traded before eligible to sign a designated-veteran-player contract. Though each situation is unique, teams might be leery of paying the super max well into a player’s 30s. If eligible, players would likely demand the maximum available salary, though. And, obviously, not all players are enticed by the possibility of a super-max deal, anyway.

But the Wizards signed John Wall to a designated-veteran-player extension, which projects to be worth a whopping $169 million over four years.

Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

In brokering this deal, the Wizards had to project how Wall’s game will develop over the course of the next five or six years. That’s a long time, but as team president Ernie Grunfeld explained in detail, they feel very comfortable about Wall’s future.

“Thirty is still very young in the NBA nowadays. But we’ve seen John grow every single year. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league. The last four years he’s been an All-Star. This past year he was an elite-level player making the All-NBA team. He’s improved his shooting, he’s improved his knowledge of the game. The game has really slowed down for him. His first two or three years he was just up and down the floor trying to get to the basket and get layups. Now he reads the floor and he reads the situations and makes the right plays at the right times,” Grunfeld said.

There are three primary reasons a designated-veteran-player extension makes more sense for Wall and the Wizards than most cases:

1. Wall is particularly young for someone with his experience level. He was just 19 when drafted. Players can’t receive a designated-veteran-player salary until their ninth season, when many of them are already or close to declining. Wall’s extension will kick in for his 10th season, when he’ll be just 29.

2. Wall’s extension added just four years to his contract. A designated-veteran-player extension must bring a player’s contract to a total of six years. Because Wall still had two years left on his deal (not possessing a player option on his rookie-scale extension), his latest extension added just four years at the super-max salary. That’s far less risky for the team. It would have been risky for Wall to wait until next summer to sign, as he’d have to make another All-NBA team to remain eligible for the super max.

3. Washington already committed to max contracts for Otto Porter and Bradley Beal that run through the first two seasons of Wall’s extension. Ian Mahinmi is still on the books for more than $15 million during the first. Even without extending Wall, the Wizards might not have had significant cap flexibility. Better to keep their franchise player.

Will Wall be worth $47 million at age 32? Probably not. Will he be worth $44 million at age 31? I wouldn’t take that bet.

But Washington might get enough surplus value during the first two years of the extension, when Wall projects to earn $38 million and $41 million, to make it worthwhile. More importantly, players of Wall’s caliber aren’t easily attainable. Even if his salary outpaces his production, the Wizards couldn’t simply find a fair-value replacement who even nears Wall’s output. There’s simply value in having him.

Suns’ offseason a snoozer

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The Suns made their usual bids for stars.

Also, as usual, Phoenix came up empty.

Then… nothing.

The Suns had the NBA’s quietest offseason. They drafted Josh Jackson (No. 4) and Davon Reed (No. 32) and re-signed Alan Williams to a completely reasonable three-year, $17 million contract. Otherwise, they mostly stayed quiet.

Alex Len remains a restricted free agent, and Phoenix has enough cap room to do something big – especially if it includes renouncing Len. But at this point in the summer, fireworks are usually finished.

The Suns could have made a late splash by trading for Kyrie Irving. They didn’t push too hard, logical considering they’re unlikely to win enough during the final two seasons before Irving’s player option to justify the cost of acquiring him.

Phoenix wanted the type of offseason the Denver had, landing a star like Paul Millsap while its payroll was low. When that didn’t happen, the Suns settled for the type of offseason the Heat couldn’t have – rolling over cap space, setting up to tank again and trying again next summer.

Aside from overspending on lackluster veterans, there just wasn’t much else for the Phoenix to do.

The Suns already have promising young players (Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis and Derrick Jones. Jr.). They have veterans to set a tone (Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley). They even have a few between players who could be part of the next winner in Phoenix or get moved before that (Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and Alan Williams).

It was a bummer that Brandon Knight got hurt, but he was unlikely regain positive trade value. Davon Reed’s injury was also a bummer, but I didn’t have the highest hopes for him, either.

Getting Jackson at No. 4 was treated by many as a boon. But I always projected a player of that caliber to be available.

This offseason just didn’t move the needle in any way.

The Suns did very little, and as long as they don’t offer Len a huge contract or do something else wild, that was fine given the circumstances. High draft picks and cap flexibility are always good to have.

Offseason grade: C

Jaylen Brown rapped and produced song to prepare for defending LeBron James

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LeBron James‘ and Kevin Durant‘s collaboration had a short run as the hottest unheard track performed by an NBA player.

Next up? Maybe the song Jaylen Brown wrote and rapped to ease his nerves before the Celtics’ then-rookie guarded LeBron James in last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

Avery Yang of SportTechie:

He finally settled on an unorthodox solution — to create a three-minute, 31-second rap song that he rapped, produced and composed himself, one that would boost his self-esteem and get him past the urge to vomit before games in nervousness. Brown listened to the song, entitled Building Blocks, several times before all five games of a playoff series in which he held his own against James defensively.

Game day and it’s time to focus in. … Is you ready, I can feel you breathing heavy, keep it steady. I just gotta pretend that I got it all together when I don’t. Probably wanna throw up but I won’t … just breathe. —Jaylen Brown, Building Blocks

Breathe in, breathe out, listen to my voice breathe in, breathe out. (Expletive) you ain’t got a choice, breathe in, breathe out. I can feel my hands sweaty, I can feel my legs heavy. —Jaylen Brown, Building Blocks

LeBron shot 79% while Brown was on the court in the Eastern Conference finals.

Stephen Curry voices support for Colin Kaepernick

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Stephen Curry saw his favorite NFL team come to his neck of the woods, when the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Carolina Panthers yesterday.

The Warriors superstar used the occasion to express support for Colin Kaepernick, who has not been signed after kneeling during the national anthem last season.

First, Curry posted “freekaep” on Instagram. Via NBC Sports Bay Area:

stephkap.jpg

Then, Curry expanded. Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer:

Said Curry of Kaepernick: “He definitely should be in the NFL. If you’ve been around the NFL, the top 64 quarterbacks, and he’s not one of them? Then I don’t know what game I’m watching.

“Obviously his stance and his peaceful protest when he was playing here kind of shook up the world,” Curry said, “and I think for the better. But hopefully he gets back in the league – because he deserves to be here and he deserves an opportunity to play. He’s in his prime and can make a team better.”

Curry said, though, that he hoped most of all that from Kaepernick’s protests that “all that he’s gone through in the past year actually leads to some awakening.”

Remember when it seemed Curry tried to avoid controversy? That sure has changed.

Kaepernick is one of the top 64 quarterbacks in the world. He’s not necessarily a starter, but teams need backups – and, as Week 1 showed, many need better backups. That Kaepernick is unsigned shines a bright light on the myth that sports are some great meritocracy. Kaepernick worked hard, grinded and became one of the very best at what he does. He’s jobless because of his political views. Period.

Good for Curry for speaking out.

Nuggets hooked a big fish in Paul Millsap

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The Nuggets apparently didn’t see the exemplary move of their offseason coming.

They tried to trade Gary Harris and the No. 13 pick for Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, but as Cleveland tells it, the Pacers backed out of the three-team trade. So, Denver traded down from No. 13 to No. 24, picking Tyler Lydon and acquiring Trey Lyles – two more power forwards to join a team that already had Juan Hernangomez, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur.

Finally, the Nuggets signed Paul Millsap – an upgrade over every power forward already on the roster and a better fit than Love – without surrendering any assets beyond cap space. And it wasn’t as much cap space as feared. Despite talk of a max contract, Millsap settled for $90 million over three years with a team option of the final season.

That’s a quite reasonable price for a potential franchise-changer.

Millsap isn’t Denver’s franchise player. That’s Nikola Jokic. But Millsap immediately elevates the Nuggets into a likely playoff team, and they got the 32-year-old without committing long-term.

After making Jokic a full-time start in December, Denver had the NBA’s best offensive rating (113.3). Better than the Warriors. Better than the Rockets. Better than the Cavaliers. Better than everyone else.

In that span, Jokic averaged 19.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game – marks hit over a full season by only Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Billy Cunningham and Kevin Garnett. That’s four Hall of Famers and a future Hall of Famer.

Still, the Nuggets finished just 40-42, a game out of playoff position. They had the NBA’s second-worst defense, and Jokic’s deficiencies were glaring. It’s just hard to hide a weak defensive center.

Millsap might do that, though. He’s one of the NBA’s best defensive forwards and even provides some rim protection. Importantly, he also spaces the floor on the other end, allowing Denver to still take full advantage of Jokic’s advanced offensive skills.

Typical development by a young core – which also includes Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – would have pushed the Nuggets forward. Millsap allows them to keep pace in a tough Western Conference that only loaded up this offseason.

Though well worth the complication, Millsap creates a crowd at power forward Denver has yet to address. At least there are plausible patches.

Faried can play center, though re-signing restricted free agent Mason Plumlee (whose $4,588,840 qualifying offer is outstanding) would reduce the playing time available there. Hernangomez can play small forward. Lydon might not be ready to play at all.

At some point, it’d be nice to get Hernangomez more minutes at his optimal position. He’s merely trying to tread water at small forward. As a stretch four who gets after rebounds, he could be a core piece.

For now, Millsap mans the power forward spot, and the Nuggets are better for it. Opening cap space for Millsap meant losing Danilo Gallinari in free agency, but Wilson Chandler and Will Barton are capable at small forward.

Denver’s sound drafting in recent years created a clean cap sheet, with several contributors locked into rookie-scale contracts – or, in Jokic’s case, an even smaller deal. The Nuggets could afford to splurge on a veteran who’d fast-track their ascension. Kudos to them for luring one – especially without a long-term guarantee.

Offseason grade: A